The battle for the final spot in the rotation was expected to be fierce this Spring Training, but so far, it’s been anything but.
Mike Soroka entered camp with a slight hamstring tweak. It doesn’t sound too serious, but he’s still yet to throw off of a mound. Given his injury history, the Braves aren’t going to rush him, so I don’t see it being very likely that he begins the season on the Opening Day roster. More than likely, Soroka will start the year in Gwinnett, which is just fine. His health is the only thing the team should be worried about.
The other two’s situations are much different. Bryce Elder is coming off a stellar rookie campaign and has a real shot at earning the final rotation spot, but his Spring Training began about as poorly as possible. Up against the Yankees, he allowed the first three batters to reach base before giving up a grand slam. It took more than 20 pitches for Elder to record an out; not pretty, but somehow, Anderson’s first start of Spring may have been even worse.
This is the first time Braves fans got a glimpse of Anderson since his demotion in the middle of last season. 2022 was a year to forget, but he has a track record of success, and mechanical changes to his delivery along with a new offering provide hope that a bounce back campaign is in the cards.
Unfortunately, that hope will have to be put on hold for at least a few more days. Anderson took the mound on Tuesday against the Twins and gave up a homer to the first batter he faced. That’s one thing, but it was the two walks followed by another home run that were really worrisome.
It’s not the start Braves fans were hoping for, but I’m here to ease concerns. Spring Training results are rarely indicative of regular season success. Most often, especially early on in camp, these pitchers are working on a certain aspect of their game. The statistical results aren’t what’s important.
Another takeaway from this is the importance of starting pitching depth. Injuries are inevitable over the course of a 162-game season and so are struggles. Thankfully, the Braves might have the deepest group of starting pitchers in the league. It’s alright to be unimpressed by the first outings of Elder and Anderson, but it’s far too early to form any meaningful conclusions.
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